The cast of new HBO series The Idol on Tuesday defended its overtly sexual scenes and rejected rumors of onset turmoil, after the show scandalized critics at Cannes.
“We know we are making a show that is provocative, it’s not lost on us,” director Sam Levinson told journalists the day after the series premiered at the film festival on the French Riviera.
The show depicts Lily-Rose Depp as a pop star struggling to get back on track after a breakdown, surrounded by heartless handlers, when she meets the manipulative leader of a modern-day cult, played by musician Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye.
While Depp’s performance was praised as “riveting”, many critics felt a plethora of sexual scenes – including nudity, kinky masturbation, and graphic dirty talk – went too far.
“I think that sometimes things that might be revolutionary are taken a bit too far,” said “Euphoria” creator Levinson, commenting on the “very sexualized world” we live in, the influence of pornography, and the underbelly of the internet.
The series – which gives a nod to Britney Spears and toxic fame that engulfed ‘90s pop stars – brings yet another complex female character to Cannes, which has served up plenty of films exploring the dark side of women.
“The bareness of the character physically mirrors the bareness we get to see emotionally. I have never felt more involved in those kinds of conversations,” Depp said of her character’s nudity.
Tesfaye – who also produced the show and announced earlier this month he was scrapping his stage name The Weeknd – describes his character who tries to lure the popstar in as “Dracula”.
The series received a modest five-minute ovation, but most critics were put off by the excessive sexuality.
Variety slammed its “tawdry cliches” and said the show “plays like a sordid male fantasy. Meanwhile, Deadline wrote: “Until we know more, it’s hard to make value judgments about morality and ethics, or, more substantively, the arguments about the male gaze and female body rights.”
The Idol – which will be released in June – had been plagued by rumors of onset turmoil and graphic sex scenes before its release.
Depp said the accusations were “not reflective at all of my experience shooting the show,” while actress Jane Adams said it was “one of the best creative experiences I have ever had.”